Affirmative Action and the UCs

New discussions of affirmative action have the media in a frenzy. In case anyone forgot, California voters passed Prop 209 back in 1996, which prohibits California public institutions from using race, sex, or ethnicity in admission decisions (yes, Prop 209 is still in effect, all attempts to appeal or amend the proposition thus far have failed).

The Trump administration is citing discrimination against Asian-American students as the cause for reexamining the issue of affirmative action. This puts affirmative action advocates in a tough spot: rights of a minority group vs. civil rights; no one really wins in a fight like this (clever tactic by the DOJ).

This also points to a larger issue, which my sociology professor at Berkeley in 1996 pointed out during a lecture regarding Prop 209: removal of affirmative action and implementation of merit-based college admissions process will overwhelmingly favor students from cultural backgrounds that emphasize education (I know everyone is immediately thinking of Asian-Americans, but don’t forget the Jews, another ethnic minority that was on the receiving end of college admission discrimination for decades). In an all-merit system, students coming from families that throw everything they own (and borrow, and beg, and sacrifice) into educating their children will win, regardless of ethnic backgrounds, and those with little or no means (and no guidance or support) will lose, regardless of ethnic backgrounds (although those who suffer from systemic/institutional discrimination are way more likely to lose).

How did the UCs respond to the DOJ’s new interest in dismantling affirmative action? Janet Napolitano promptly poked the bear, releasing a statement saying “It would be tragic, to say the least, if [the UC’s outreach efforts to historically underrepresented groups] somehow ran afoul of this reported misguided Justice Department initiative.” (Why, Janet, why would you paint a huge target on those programs? You know DOJ is coming straight for them now! First UCI, now this, *facepalm* seriously!)

This is an issue that pits minorities against minorities and, unfortunately, no one really wins in a zero-sum game like this.


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  4 comments for “Affirmative Action and the UCs

  1. CC
    August 14, 2017 at 1:15 PM

    Is Asian Americans being used by whites as Human shields in new affirmative action fight?

    • Ms. Sun
      August 14, 2017 at 3:12 PM

      I think the DOJ and the Trump administration are certainly trying to do that. This is a complicated issue with proponents on both sides; while there may be a racial divide on this issue, that doesn’t mean everyone of a particular race or ethnicity supports it.

    • Ms. Sun
      August 15, 2017 at 10:03 AM

      Labeling systemic/institutional discrimination as “preferences of privilege” (note the lack of trigger words in this fancy label) diminishes the severity of the problem and how deeply rooted it is in our society.

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